Skip to main content

22 November 2021 - News

The Dark Force of Open Defecation

vector control within the community

Harrison and his family have been enjoying the UNHCR Response through SCI since 2019. However, Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) was implemented in July 2021 in his settlement. His community was one of the communities where awareness was raised towards  the behavior of defecating openly and its negative effects.


Harrison lives with his two sons, Ciprin and Morrison in the refugee camp in Ogoja, Cross River State. The household gets donated cash-based interventions and other items. With the recent reduction of donated items and cash-transfers, households have struggled to survive. And due the lack of hygenic practices, Ciprin and Morrison fell ill frequently and their friends and family believed dark spiritual powers were trying to kill his two sons.


Despite the provision of a latrine, Many POCs (persons of concern) still practice open defecation. This has been a major concern, as the situation of open defecation was not improving. The donor, UNHCR, decided to include Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach to aid behavioral change towards open defecation in 2020. However, due to Covid-19, this approach could not be carried out. However, in 2021 this activity was implemented and Mr. Harrison’s community was one of the communities targeted. 


Before the intervention, Children in the community frequently fell ill. Parents spent on medication for ailments such as diarrhea, dysentery and malaria. Quite notably in 2018, there was an outbreak of cholera with high mortality recorded. In spite of this, people did not pick up the habit of hand-washing at that critical moment; they continued to defecate openly despite the provision of latrines and daily sensitization among other initiatives to curb the menace.


Mr Harrison’s doctor advised him to engage his children in constant hand-washing but the habit was not maintained. However, as soon as the community’s interest in the campaign was awakened, and information on how fecal matter enters the mouth was shared and established, they absolutely did not want to practice open defecation any more. They also began to practice proper hand-washing. This greatly improved the state of the health of children and parents in the community. After this, Morrison and his siblings were no longer falling ill. The time used to nurture and nurse them whenever they were ill was instead put into productive work, enabling them to make and save more money for the family. The funds used to transport himself and sons to the clinic and other miscellaneous funds spent on items such as drugs when sick were used to improve the children’s education.


They now understand that no dark force was against them, but the unhygenic habits added to the prevalence of illness. 48% of event of diarrhea episodes can be associated with lack of hand washing with soap. Since the onset of this movement, frequency of diarrhea has reduced significantly. Save the Children has provided Latrines and the Beneficiaries are ready to maximize its benefits. Because diarrhea is one of the leading cause of death of children under 5, it is important to keep children healthy and ready to learn. The community is now Open Defecation Free (ODF).